We publish this defence of the Libyan militias as we agree is essence with it despite some of the contradictory statements. We stand for the arming to be extended to all the Libyan masses, including the millions of immigrant workers and for the resisting of the disarming of the militias. For our statement “Arm all the Libyan masses” see elsewhere on our website www.workersinternational.org.za . This defence is important as imperialism and its agents have set a deadline of the 20th December for the militias to be disarmed. They want to extend their plan to discredit revolutionary fighters and to re-establish the brutal regime of Gaddafi without Gaddafi.
Extracts from Yusseff’s speech
Y.: Good afternoon, I’m not used to speak through a mic, but I want to greet first of all the comrades that are here attending the meeting, all the organizations that have come to this room and I also want to thank you for this example of internationalism. I am here to respond to all the doubts you may have about the Libyan process and help you to understand it (…) We are all here in agreement to put in place and build up this Committee for the defense to the Libyan militia in Misratah, which together we waged a battle in Libya and now we are threatened to be expropriated the power that we have acquired.
I find it opportune to open the present meeting thanking the comrades from Democracia Obrera, because they were the only organization that dared to give a step forward, and though it did not participate physically in the battlefield by sending men, it made a contribution that helped throw down those lackeys of Gaddafi’s hit men.
(…) I got to
came out and went everywhere shouting “we liberated
I saw a rather well organized population, who were helping each other in solidarity. The entire production, be it of fuel, food or whatever was needed, went for the militias. The vanguard relied absolutely on the rearguard; that is, on the mothers that sent their sons to the militias, or on the worker that maybe was not ready to go and take a weapon, but had no problem in working eight hours completely to the service of the militias. This is a thorough deny of that lie, that sprayed slander that we were NATO puppets, something that smears us and makes fun of the blood spilt by all those that died at my side. I open the debate, I’m ready to answer anything you may ask me.
Q.: What was the relationship between the militias and the TNC?
Y: We in the militia lived
in the battle front. We had a common enemy that was this rubbish of a dictator
and his regime. This word, the TNC is something that you begin to hear when you
come out of
Q: What was NATO’s role in the battlefront?
Y: I can boast without shame when affirming that all along our combat, all the bullets we shot came from our guns; no foreign soldier, be it American, French, British, etc., fought at any given time alongside us. Every weapon, as for example this that I have taken with me to show you, a Russian bayonet, we took from an enemy soldier that we killed; because nobody parachuted guns or grenade throwers for us, nothing came to help us from their planes (applauses). We had not state of the art fine weapons: we had Kalashnikovs, AK-47, which are of course from year ’47! We defended ourselves with those apt weapons, and besides we expropriated weapons from the enemy. We began with steel bars, wooden sticks, rocks and gasoline bombs (a.k.a. molotovs). At no time we had any “allied attack” by NATO that saved us from anything. I have a metal splinter in my head and another three scattered in my body, because a RPG bomb thrown by a Gaddafist tank exploded near me, while dirty NATO ineffectual planes roared far high in the sky. But luckily enough they never meddled with us nor robbed our victory. Everything was accomplished thanks to our comrades’ blood, sweat and efforts. NATO only appeared to ultimately expropriate the revolution.
Let me tell you
an anecdote. The revolution was already two and a half months old and we had
expropriated around 40 tanks. We had displayed the tanks on the desert around
Brega –second city behind
NATO allowed itself the pleasure of “not recognizing” those tanks (or better, of recognizing that they were in the hands of the Libyan people) and bombed them to bits, with the militias manning them inside and all; our infantry that was marching behind the tanks was also badly hit. You have here the “participation” that NATO had for the sake of the insurrection, such was the way through which, little by little, by means of their bombings, the stealing of the revolution, of this insurrection, or the facilitation of the expropriation of this insurrection was carried on by NATO in favor of people that had not fought a single day.
Q: What was the militias’ reaction when you had the first news about NATO military intervention?
Y: It’s very well-known
that the first days of the insurrection there was a lot of panic. There was a
very frightened rearguard. Many people fled to
Q: Why do you say that the relationship of the TNC with the militia amounts to nil? How does a fighting force get military supplies if it does not have the backing of the TNC?
Y: The TCN has been able
to impose its domination when it enters
So, we make our
victorious entrance to
The most rebellious masses –or the masses that disavow the TNC- are the masses in Misratah, because their victory could not be expropriated by anybody, no NATO bomb was thrown there that helped destroy Gaddafi’s tanks, the masses destroyed them in the beginning with their steel bars and their petrol bombs. Misratah militia are who do not recognize today the authority of the TNC, which cannot disarm them, because the TNC knows that the it would be thrown down if it attempts right now to disarm them. It is necessary to understand that they are Moslem masses that are also influenced by their religion. With all kinds of tricks and deceptions, I think the TNC has been able to impose, partially at least some kind of stability.
Chatting with my comrades in Tripoli and Benghazi these last days, in spite of being the phone communications rather difficult and the words we use –for security reasons- somewhat disguised, I am in the capability of telling you that there are at this time military clashes (with “some isolated pockets of Gaddafist resistance”, NT), and with that excuse the TNC is trying to coopt the militia and make them enter the new (unified, NT) “national army”. But there are a number of people that are looking at what is happening and making their experience about the TNC not being better than Gaddafi. Contrariwise, it is the same or worse rubbish.
Another anecdote: There was a former Gaddafist general, who was Gaddafi’s right-hand man when it came to repress the Libyan people, a military leader that had been at Gaddafi’s side for the last forty years. He was who impeded the advance of the militias; he was constantly putting obstacles in their way, or gave contradictory orders so that they withered away. He made them march to the forefront, and then he called them back, and they were constantly losing comrades. That former Gaddafist general was executed by a sector of the militias; after that the militias could advance displaying their whole power; obviously they had casualties, but they could impose their continuous march up to Sirt’s gates.
Q: What was the percentage of internationalist militants that went to fight there, and what was the degree of political discussion that goes on within the militias? Do they discuss the idea of “expropriation”, of taking power or of defending the ongoing revolution?
Y: We can mention the Palestinians, I don’t know in what numbers. There were many Egyptians too, they weren’t a great majority but you could find them either in the forefront or working in the rearguard. In the rearguard there were also many Filipinos, Bosnians, and others that collaborated with the militias. I was chatting a whole afternoon with a comrade that manned an anti-aircraft device in one of those expropriated 4-runners. He was deeply attached to the Libyan cause and linked it to the Palestinian cause.
The topic of expropriation and of disavowing the imposed authorities was always being discussed. During the time I was there the objective was to smash the dictator’s head. Everybody had it crystal clear that we weren’t to hand him down to NATO, or to The Hague (War Crimes Tribunal, NT), or least of all to the TNC. He who had the luck of capturing Gaddafi was to put no less than three bullets into his head; that was vox populi; that was in everybody’s mouth. In the moment that the insurrections began, and they were rather hard-handed, the entire production was expropriated and put in solidarity with the (fighting, NT) masses and their collaborators. So, it is obvious that the discussion of expropriating and producing for the people was constantly in the air from the beginning.
Q: What was the age of the militia-men and what pushed you to take part in the militias?
Y: Our militia group named itself “February 17 Revolution of the youth”, because it was a revolution driven mostly by the young men between their 17 and 27s. Obviously there were also older men, but the main number was made of the youth.
(About the second question)… To arrive at a country that had been sold to me as being “socialist”, through the media, with the red flag and everything, an egalitarian country, a country where everybody earned the same wage… and then, the misery and squalor that stood out to our eyes, as I explained before, with the sewers damming up, all the stink and the dirt, the starving people without a meager crust to put in their children’s mouths. And the wide gap between those associated to the government and the working people… I think that was the starter that pushed me to participate.
Q: So, it was what you saw?
Y: That was what I lived and experienced in my own flesh. In the battlefront sometimes we ate a good meal, sometimes we had a watery sauce with some beans floating in it and some crusts of bread. That gives you a glimpse of the living standards in this country, where you may dig a hollow with a baby’s toy-spade and oil gushes forth… but at the same time you have people starving to death.
Q: What was the role played by the workers, specifically as a social sector? Did any organizational gain remain, beyond the militias, as working class organizations?
Y: There you had a long
standing dictatorship, where any kind of organization, be it a working class
one or something of any other character was completely banned, even if it was
in the name of the (
This thing of the “labor organizations” is something new, a movement for the building of unions began to be organized, I don’t know if I can put it that name… it would be a group representing the working class. That was just beginning to be built. Obviously the clear and foremost objective was to overthrow the dictator and finish this dictatorship for good to end starvation and misery; the militias and all the militia-men that were there, were expressing –albeit not with words, but with the language of the guns- the working class interests.
Q: How did you communicate among yourselves?
Y: The technology used by the enemy was communication through radio, by walkie-talkie; as those instruments were expropriated -in the clashes with the enemy- we could communicate better. At the beginning everything was spontaneous, completely anarchical; there was neither communication nor any kind of organization among us. As we could expropriate more and more technological devices from the (Gaddafist) army we could arm ourselves and organize better. Many of the 4-runners that we expropriated from the dictatorship, which seem to be Toyotas, are actually Chinese 4-runners that the dictator had purchased for propaganda aims; he had promised to hand them down (albeit in exchange of paying for long years very low installments) to every person that had been born on the same date of the anniversary of his “Revolution”. But those vehicles were rejected by the people and remained unused, slowly rusting in the ports. When the insurrection bursts, the first thing the masses do is to go and find out a rapid means of transport. Immediately the people recalled the vans and expropriated them and together with the metalworkers and the rank and file soldiers, they began to arm them with artillery to put them to the service of the militias and the insurrection.
Q: In the moment
Gaddafi is captured, some Spanish speaking voices are heard. Was there anyone
Y: I didn’t know anyone
Spanish-speaking there. Perhaps it was a journalist, or someone with a dual
citizenship, or even someone from
Q: The death of Gaddafi was coordinated with NATO… Is that true?
Y: I don’t know what media gathered that news… What I actually heard is that NATO claims that victory for itself. And that rotten garbage of Obama goes public with a warm greeting for the deed. After that, the videos appear in Internet showing that it had been the achievement of the masses, who executed Gaddafi and lifted his head. I think that when NATO and the imperialists saw that they could not sustain any more that big lie i.e., that they had taken part in Gaddafi´s death, they began to condemn my comrades, some of whom I could see and recognize in the videos. Now the TNC and the imperialists are going out to get them, to judge my comrades that had executed the filthy dictator by their own hands. I totally disavow anybody who says NATO was part in that act of justice, and I think that the facts are belying the falsifiers because if NATO had been part in the action it wouldn’t be condemning those that shot him in an act of popular justice.
Q: Which was the overall reaction, and particularly that of yours when watching the execution of Gaddafi?
Y: It was an honor; I felt an euphoric sensation, a tremendous happiness when I recognized those that had been with me in the trenches, together with whom I shed tears, comrades that shared with me the chill of the early morning, the hunger of midday and the nightly exhaustion. For us they are heroes. We fought together and together gave our lives. And our lives we would give for them. We thoroughly condemn the attitude by the UN and the TNC of wanting them judged, that is also judging us, because all of us feel part in the justified death of the dictator.
Q: How did the militias treat anyone that was captured?
Y: In Misratah all the servants to Gaddafi were executed by popular hands, that is, everyone that had increased his/her capital thanks to his/her relationship with the dictator. Almost everybody who had been a “shareholder of the regime” was executed. About the Gaddafist soldiers that had been abandoned, if they resisted and continued shooting at us, it was natural that we responded their attack. If they rendered themselves they were considered as war prisoners, so they were respected. The first thing that a Moslem does with a prisoner is to offer him water, a roof and food; so, we based ourselves in those traditional laws.
Q: How did you manage to fight? Did you share the technology? Did the hospitals work? What did the common masses do?
Y: The masses were absolutely at the disposal of the militias; the hospitals operated completely free as well; from time to time a truck crossed the Egyptian border bringing inputs, and that was put to the service of the masses. If you had an inflamed appendix you could go to the hospital and you would be cared for accordingly. Everything was very fraternal and there was solidarity from the rearguard of the masses towards the vanguard that were the militias.
Our training was directly in the battles, the victory and the defeat of every day. Some of us were people that for the first time in their lives had a rifle in their hands, the first time they loaded a chamber with bullets. And it was the first time they saw the effect that that rifle caused to another human being, something rather shocking. We had no military training; it was simply a case of imitating the acts of the most daring one of us. Of going behind him who crossed the cartridge belt around his neck and went forward. And to take advantage of the experience of the rank and file soldiers that had deserted the army and gone to the militias.
Q: What was the role of the women?
Y: The women played a role in the rearguard, they distributed food. An important accomplishment was to form –in spite of all the constraints of the Islamic religion- a group of women that armed themselves in self-defense, because the Gaddafist soldiers used to come and rape them. So we gave them weapons for them to be able to defend themselves.
Q: Were you in a combat together with a friend of yours?
Y: Yes. When I got to Misratah I knew a lawyer, a leftist thinker, a
cadre. He had traveled to
Q: How was Gaddafi’s bunker?
Y: It had a wall all around about 3 or 4 meters thick, the bullets of a semi-automatic rifle could not pierce right through it. It had common graves were we found comrades that had been fusilladed and dungeons where we found comrades imprisoned, political prisoners. The bunker had big stores full of ammo and weapons, and a complete neighborhood of houses for privileged people, with TV sets and all the commodities that lackeys of imperialism and collaborators to the regime who lived near the dictator could dream of. There was also the big tent of the dictator. We found the dictator’s gold platted machine gun. You could see there in all its extent Gaddafi´s “socialism”, the society that Gaddafi was selling, a complete farce, the maximum expression of a big lie.
Q: Was there any talk of spreading the fight to the rest of the countries”
Y: There was always a phrase: “after
Q: What will happen with the militias?
Y: The last news I have
from my comrades, rather fresh news is that the TNC is trying to coopt them for
the new national army of the TNC. Let’s hope it cannot accomplish that purpose.
You see… There have been 9 months of a terrible war; they are completely tired
of the ceaseless battles, plenty of fighting, starvation and sufferings. And
taking into account that there is a lack of a strong Revolutionary Party in
René: I belong to the Movement of
Immigrant Bolivian Seamstresses (in
Y: First of all, applause
for the comrade and for the struggle of the Bolivian comrades! In the artistic
expressions that are sold in all the insurrected cities (in
Q: When you went short of ammo, what did you do?
Y: In a war that is the
most catastrophic situation you can come into. Our level of organization was
almost all the time based on saving the bullets. No shootings to the air: that
meant 30 dead enemies less! There were moments when the Kalashnikovs, as there
was a shortage of bullets 762 or 31, got deprived of ammo. We were saved by the
anti-aircraft and the FAL bullets that we found in
Q: What political discussions were held in the militia? Did you debate about the continuation of the struggle?
Y: The discussions were
amidst the conditions the militias were in, and taking into consideration their
condition of being -as militias-, wholly precarious forces. Even when the
discussions about the future occurred sometimes, we lived mostly the day to day
life. The first thing we wanted to do was to get rid of the dictator, because
we knew that in this case, NATO had to go away and leave alone the Libyan sky.
Those were the political discussions that were on the order of the day. Another
topic of the agenda was the solidarity with
The following is a fragment of an interview to Yusseff Mohammad al-Arjentiny, after he signed adhering to the international campaign for the Defense of the Insurrected Masses of Libya and their working class and people’s fighting organizations.
“The continuity of the weapons in the hands of the people is the only guarantee for the advance of revolution. It is necessary to defend this elemental right! So the first step is to defend the militia-men that executed the dictator, who are being persecuted by the government under the orders of NATO”
What happened with the offensive over Sirt to get rid of Gaddafi?
Y: The imperialists didn’t want the militias to execute the dictator. They were negotiating his retreat. And ultimately they wanted to be who appeared as defeating Gaddafi. However, there, as in many battles, the militias bypassed the imperialist encirclement and advanced over their objectives. I want to tell you something: there was a great clarity in the whole population regarding what was necessary to do with Gaddafi. Everybody said, “Never to hand down Gaddafi to them!” That’s why those who executed him are considered heroes by the majority of the people. It is not accidental that the government and the imperialists have questioned the execution, attacking the militia that took it in their hands. That’s why the great task now is to prevent the TNC, NATO, UNO, from judging and condemning them; it is necessary to defend the overall armament of the people!
How did the militia and the sectors controlled by them work?
Y: All the factories and big facilities were in the hands of the workers and the people. Everything that was expropriated was shared fairly among everyone; the food, the fuel, the bread, the water, under the control of committees of workers and common people. I took upon me that function for a while in the rearguard together with the committees. Then when we were fighting we ate a kind of tomato or sweet pepper watered sauce with some floating beans in it, where we soaked our crumbs. When we managed to take a position from the hands of the enemy or to enter a military neighborhood (who in their majority lived a luxurious life) of a seized town we shared among us the best food we could find.
The militias, besides organizing the life of the people and delivering the goods expropriated by the masses, granted the administration of justice. The sectors that had been nearest to the regime, specially the more corrupted and bloodthirsty ones were straightforwardly executed. Those sectors that could be still won over to our side, we tried to sum them up to the resistance forces. Misratah is a very militant city because there all the sectors related to the dictatorship were executed. Popular justice was healthy, and served as an example.
How was Gaddafi’s image among the population?
Y: The discourse with which Gaddafi ascends to power, in the first years is an “anti-imperialist” one; he speaks of a regime that is going to bring “equality for everybody”. That the elders defended those ideas and the youth hate him for doing exactly the opposite, I thinks shows the anti-imperialist consciousness of the Libyan people
I was told that
his alignment with Bush supporting the
What future do the Libyan people foresee?
Y: as far as I know nobody speaks about elections or similar things. But there is not much clarity either about the policies that should be applied. What is very clear, however, is the necessity of not surrendering the weapons acquired, because they understand that the possession of a gun is the best guarantee to defend their rights, of not being trampled. Many militia-men, many people had to risk their lives to get a gun to defend himself. Sometimes three workers were murdered aiming to get a rifle, so that for them the gun is not only a fighting tool, it is the symbol of spilt blood that they do not want to surrender.
something very important and has to be defended, all over the world, preventing
the government and imperialism from de-mobilizing the militias. There is
currently an international campaign for isolating the armed people, mounted by
political sectors that claim to be leftists, but in fact they work together
with the TBC and NATO; the isolation of the militias would allow the TNC and
NATO start an offensive to disband or kill the militias. The continuity of the
overall armament of the people is the only guarantee for the revolution to
advance. It is necessary to unite all of us that are ready to defend this
elemental right of the masses! For this to be attained we have to begin by
defending the militias that executed the dictator, that are currently
persecuted by the government under the orders of NATO. Luckily, in that sense
there have been already some rallies in defense of them in